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West Virginia Republicans Override Governor’s Veto Of Contentious Right-To-Work Law, West Virginia Now Becomes 26th State Across U.S. With RTW (For Less) Law

Published Saturday, February 13, 2016
by Labor News Wire Services

(THE STATE OF WEST VIRGINIA) – Democratic West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin had opposed a Right-To-Work Bill (RTW - for less) in his state, but Republicans in the Legislature overrode his veto of the contentious RTW Bill on Friday (February 12th).

The swift override means that a majority of U.S. States now have Right-To-Work Laws, with West Virginia becoming the 26th.  Despised by Labor Unions, these laws give Workers the option to stop paying fees to Unions that must still represent them.

Democrats in the statehouse, as well as Governor Tomblin, opposed the measure - but Republicans control the state legislature and were able to override Tomblin's veto with a simple majority, voting 18-to-16 in the Senate and 55-to-43 in the House along party lines.

The law will go into effect in May.

No Worker in the U.S. can be forced to be a member of a Labor Union, but where local law allows it, Workers in Unionized Workplaces can be required to pay their Union what are known as Agency Fees, which cover the costs of Collective Bargaining - but not political activities.

Since Unions must represent all Workers in a unit - even those who may not want representation - unions say it's only fair that all Workers contribute to the bargaining expenses (Read The Huffington Post's full explainer on right-to-work laws here.)

But the rapid spread of Right-To-Work Laws is giving more Workers the prerogative to opt out of funding the Unions that represent them.

First passed in the late 1940s, such laws were long relegated to the South and West, but Republicans have recently managed to get Right-To-Work Laws on the books even in the Union-dense Midwest.

West Virginia is the fourth state to pass such a law in as many years, following Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin.

The blow to West Virginia Labor Unions on Friday wasn't limited to the Right-To-Work Bill.

Republicans also overrode a veto of a bill to repeal the state's Prevailing Wage Law.

Long championed by Unions, Prevailing Wage Laws require companies bidding on public projects to pay certain minimum Wages to the Workers they'll employ.

Democratic State Senator Jeffrey Kessler, who is the leader of the senate minority, called the pair of moves a "double-barreled attack" on West Virginia Workers on a "horrific" day.

West Virginia AFL-CIO Union Federation President Kenny Perdue thanked Tomblin for his opposition to the measures in a statement.  Perdue said the Statewide Labor Organization would "remind" voters "which legislators failed them" come November.

Meanwhile, the Teamsters have filed a lawsuit against the Right-To-Work process, claiming that the state senate did not abide by a Freedom of Information Act request that sought e-mails between senate leadership and professors at West Virginia University.  

The Union will attempt to stunt what the Teamsters’ described as the “bad bill’s growth,” by taking the senate to court for their role in allegedly concealing communications between leadership and the West Virginia University professor who provided the data they used as the foundation of their pro-Right-to-Work argument

According to the Teamsters, legislative supporters of the legislation used state money to fund a study that was intended to provide cover for Anti-Worker Objectives - rather than independently considering the actual impact of the law on the West Virginia economy.

Professional Firefighters of West Virginia President Brian Jones expressed fiery confidence about the future: “This bill is ‘absolutely terrible’ for a state that was ‘built on the backs of Labor.’  ‘The fight’s not over, whatever the outcome is.’”

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